Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Theater Review: The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Who Dunit? Roundabout Does by Staging a Drop-Dead Fun Night at the Theater
By Lauren Yarger
Who dunit? No one knows, since Charles Dickens died before finishing his last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, so each night, the audience at Roundabout Theatre Company's Broadway musical adaptation gets to decide.

Cast members, who already have been cavorting with audience members during the tongue-in-cheek, almost vaudevillian performance, come into the house with signs numbered to correspond with suspects vying for votes up on stage. The tallies are taken and the second act continues on with an ending geared toward fingering the murderer as selected by the audience.

It's all a lot of fun, much like this silly play within a play set in London's Music Hall Royale in 1895 and directed by Scott Ellis. Beautiful sets, accented with Victorian detail (Anna Louizos, set design -- love that train tunnel!) provide the backdrop for the zany characters dressed in period garb (William Ivey Long, who nicely balances color in his design) singing music and lyrics by Rupert Holmes (who also pens the book). Choreography is by Warren Carlyle.

Music Hall actors play characters in the tale with the help of the theater Chairman (Jim Norton), a sort of narrator, to keep everything straight with actors playing characters playing multiples characters.... It's not as complicated as it might sound, though.

The gist is that Edwin Drood (Stephanie J. Block, playing a woman playing Drood....) has mysteriously disappeared and is presumed dead. Many had opportunity and motive. Was it John Jasper (Will Chase) who is in love with his voice student, Rosa Bud (Betsy Wolfe) whose father arranged her engagement to Drood, who also is Jasper's nephew? Jasper, after all, was the last person to see Drood alive. Or perhaps it was mysterious Neville Landless (Andy Karl) arrived from Ceylon, who also is interested in Rosa, or could it be his equally mysterious twin sister, Helena (Jessie Meueller), who despised Drood?

Also suspect are the Landless's mentor, the Rev. Mr. Crisparkle (Gregg Edelman, who is an absolute hoot), Durdles (Robert Creighton), a stone carver and cemetery caretaker who has a drinking problem, Princess Puffer (Chita Rivera), who runs an opium den frequented by Jasper, clerk Bazzard (Peter Benson), who is starved for attention, or the stranger Dick Datchery who suddenly starts asking questions about what happened to Drood.

The audience gets to decide the muderer's identity as well as a happy ending (Rupert wrote songs for each and every possibility, giving the show hundreds of possible concuding combinations.)
The night I attended, it was determined that The Rev. Crisparkle and Princess Puffer would end up together and Edelman, who seemed genuinely surprised, and Rivera seemed to have as much fun playing that out as we had watching.

There probably are a couple of the some 18 music numbers that could be eliminated to trim the two-hour-and-40-minute run time, but it is an enjoyable night at the intimate Studio 54, which seems a perfect fit for the revival of this romp, which won a bunch of Tonys in 1986, including Best Musical.

Drood has been extended through March 20 at Studio 54, 254 West 54th St., NYC. Tickets: 212-719-1300; www.roundabouttheatre.org.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- Sexual situations

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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